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Commentary – Ways of Knowing

The following is an edited transcript of remarks delivered by Robert Pippin at the New Humanities panel discussion on June 5, 2014. Professor Pippin and the other two panelists were asked to respond to The Point’s issue 8 editorial on the new humanities.

[Snipped] “This is a critical time in the history of American universities and an even more critical time in the history of humanities subjects in the university, so it’s a particularly urgent time to have such a conversation in public. We’re here because universities are experiencing a sense of crisis in the organization of knowledge. But it probably should be said just briefly, at the beginning, that that’s also within a crisis in the university system in the United States itself. It’s been a long time building and it’s now rather critical. I mean, the indications of the crisis are well known to all of us: In the last 25 years, the figure that I heard is that there has been a 500 percent increase in tuition at private and public universities on average. There’s been massive defunding of state universities by state legislatures. When I began my career at the University of California at San Diego, 70 percent of the budget was funded by the state legislature. That’s down to under 20 percent, and students now have to pay $14,000 per year tuition if they’re in-state students, and in the twenties if they’re not. And they often leave college with debts totaling more than $50,000 or $60,000. This is the new way that universities are financed. That’s a crazy way to finance university education: for young people to start their lives sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt if they go to a professional school. It’s bad for the economy, since they can’t spend any money the first fifteen years they’re in public. And it’s critical for the culture of a democratic polity to have people who can get educated without being in massive debt.”

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